Court staff break through language barrier

Tian Shengjie
Shanghai and South Korean companies in dispute find their problem resolved by Shanghai Maritime Court staff by communicating in Chinese and English via phone and video calls. 
Tian Shengjie

With the help of Judge Zhang Jianchen of the Shanghai Maritime Court and his team, the language barrier between a local freight company and an electronics firm’s boss from South Korea was removed, the court said on Monday.

In July, a company in Suzhou in Jiangsu Province wanted to export three containers of mask material to South Korea. The South Korean boss, surnamed Lee, entrusted the job to a freight forwarding company in Shanghai.

It told Lee the ship he had chosen was likely to be delayed and suggested changing to another ship or flight. But Lee insisted on his original plan as he didn’t understand what was being said. 

As expected, the ship sailed late and Lee had to change transport to air freight, with a large fee to be paid.

The boss thought the freight forwarding company had neglected their duty and refused to pay it. The company then sued.

Zhang and his team communicated with the local company and Lee in Chinese and English via phone and video calls. Court staff acted as a bridge to clear the air. Finally, prosecution and defense were reconciled. Lee paid several days later and renewed business relations.

A silk banner in Chinese and a plaque in Korean were given by both sides to thank the court for its efforts.

Between January 2018 and October this year, the city’s courts handled over 14,600 cases about shipping, with 1,560 cases related to companies from over 100 countries and regions, including the Bahamas, the United States and Hong Kong, Shanghai High People’s Court said on Monday.

To reduce the time in handling overseas cases, hearings related to companies in other countries or regions can be held online via a video call and using an intelligent translation system.

Over 150 cases have been handled in such a way, said Chen Meng, vice president of the court.

To check the law in other countries, an online platform was set up by the maritime court and East China University of Political Science and Law in October.

Chen said that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of cases involving shipping issues had increased.

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